Monday, September 8, 2014

Building with their hands helps children become better problem solvers. Today I am sharing 5 different ways to encourage tinkering at home.
Encouraging Kids to Tinker

What Exactly Is Tinkering?

While Oxford dictionary defines tinkering as an attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect, I don’t think of children's tinkering in the same negative way. I like a definition from my daughter’s favorite museum, The Exploratorium, a lot better – tinkering is thinking with your hands and learning through doing. It’s slowing down and getting curious about the mechanics and mysteries of the everyday stuff around you. When children tinker with things, they discover new uses for uncommon objects, think out of the box and grow as learners and problem solvers. Today I am going to share 5 ways to encourage tinkering for kids from After School Hosts and After School Link Up participants.

1. Set Up a Tinkering Station

Tinkering-Station-for-Young-Engineers
Even very young kids can benefit from a “tinkering station” inviting them to combine different objects together. Anne from Left Brain Craft Brain was a guest on A Mom With a Lesson Plan last week and shared her tips on setting up a tinkering station for preschoolers. Katydid and Kid has a great post on a tinkering kit for older kids.

2. Use Toys in an Uncommon Way

Easy-to-make-toy-truck It’s great when parents join the play to show kids how to extend their toys and combine them in new ways. Doodles and Jots has a great example of “hacking” TinkerToys and combining them with some empty cardboard boxes to make a Tinker Truck.

3. Introduce Your Kids to Junk Modeling

butterflyfamilypin
Junk modeling is tinkering with recyclable materials. In our house it usually involves a lot of scotch tape or a glue gun and the results are interesting, but not photo-friendly :) In The Playroom shares a more artsy junk model of a pretty butterfly family. She also has a great round up of 10+ Junk Modeling Crafts.

4. Create Engineering Challenges

Building with Paper Challenge
My daughter loves engineering challenges, and I am happy that this year she already had one in school where kids were asked to work in teams and create vessels out of foam craft sticks and paper clips. Then the teams competed to see which vessel can hold most counting bears without sinking. I hope she will have more of these challenges in school this year, and we also had some at home last school year when we made Lego egg racers and built boats. I also really love the way my co-host Relentlessly Fun Deceptively Educational designed this paper building challenge for her son.

5. Give Your Kids Time to Tinker

Planet-Duplo
I wrote about it before – as any true creative undertaking, tinkering requires time. This fall my daughter takes a fair share (somewhat more than normal for us) of afterschool activities of all kinds (choir, gymnastics, Mad Science, musical production in school), but this makes it even more imperative for us to keep our weekends free, so she can enjoy unstructured time. That’s when she actually play with her toys, and builds intricate play worlds including this Duplo playground.

More on How to Encourage Future Engineers

12 Amazing Engineering Projects for Kids – my most popular post this year :)
Doorknob Science – I love how my co-host MaryAnne from Mama Smiles: Joyful Parenting and her husband show their kids how things work.
3 Parenting Tips for Raising Engineers from my other co-host Amanda at The Educators’ Spin on It.
Follow my Pinterest board For Future Engineers.
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board For future engineers on Pinterest.

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

Share Your Learning Week

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your after school activities with kids age 5+ including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures. When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! Don't forget to follow along and join our After School Enrichment Community.

13 comments:

Ticia said...

Our results aren't photo friendly either, but they do enjoy them.

Kim Vij said...

Wish our kids had more time in their school setting to tinker and learn. Thanks for sharing ideas so we can set it up at home.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...


So many educational kids' activities aren't photo friendly - but kids get a lot out of them! I love the diverse range of ideas you shared in this post - and thank you for sharing my doorknob post!

jeannine said...

Love this post! Tinkery is our middle name. The only problem is all of the projects are taking over our home. But I love it and encourage it!

Anne at Left Brain Craft Brain said...

I love that Tinker Truck! My daughter can't wait to try it. Thanks so much for sharing my Tinkering Station for Young Engineers, too.

Ann said...

Thanks for featuring our Tinker Truck. I love the theme of your round up today! Heading off to check out your engineering post...

Cass@TheDiaryofaFrugalFamily said...

Thanks for linking up your posts with the Parenting Pin It Party x x

Jill R. said...

I love all of the tinkering ideas! Especially the butterflies!


Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

Katie Pinch said...

Hi Natalie, I love all the ideas you have for tinkering. Thanks for sharing at the #Lovetolearnlinky. I am planning on featuring your post. Please stop by again to see your feature and link up again. Have a great day!

Carrie said...

What great ideas for tinkering! I love it!! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!!

Icar said...

Great ideas to ignite a child's creative thinking!

Paige Smith said...

I appreciate all of the creative ways you have written about to get children to really think. I especially like the engineering challenges. I would even add trying to build a house out of cards as a great way of getting the child involved with engineering challenges. christian school leadership

Deborah Nielson said...

This is such a great collection of fun, tinkering ideas. I saw my third grader in almost everyone of your suggestions, especially the building with paper suggestion. Fabulous! Thank you.